Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl speaks at a campaign rally at the Wide Open Saloon in Sedalia on Jan. 22, 2022. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)
With just over four months until the Republican primary, gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl kicked off her 2022 campaign season Saturday night with a crowded, raucous rally at a biker restaurant in Douglas County.
Ganahl, a University of Colorado regent and the only Republican currently elected to statewide office, gave a stump speech filled with current Republican boilerplate lines: more individual rights, fewer taxes and a return to the “Colorado way of life,” though she did not offer a definition of what that looks like.
“We’re not going to sit back and watch it go away. We’re going to fight back. We’re going to take it back,” she told a crowd of supporters at the Wide Open Saloon as they dined on bar food and crammed shoulder to shoulder to hear the candidate. Nearly 180 people RSVP’d for the event, according the the campaign. The restaurant was packed as people spilled on to the patio and main dining area.
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It was Ganahl’s first event of the year. She was slated to attend a candidate forum in Fort Lupton earlier this month, but ducked out after contracting COVID-19.
“(Democratic incumbent Gov.) Jared Polis has been an out-of-touch failure, a disaster for our state,” she said.
Ganahl touched on what she believes are the results of Polis’ leadership, such as increased crime, high energy costs and a child mental health crisis due to the pandemic.
“Our kids have been isolated, mandated, quarantined to the point that they’re in a mental health crisis,” she said.
It was fitting language for a Republican event held in Douglas County, whose commissioners removed it from its health department in September over disagreements with mask mandates and does not have one in place. In December, the newly elected and conservative-majority school board prohibited the district from implementing universal masking.
The county now stands alone as its neighbors in the Denver metro area push masking for all individuals, including children and in schools, as the state sees its highest COVID-19 positivity rate during the pandemic.
Only a handful of attendees wore a mask Saturday night as they listened to Ganahl’s promise to give parents more power over decisions for their children’s health and education.
Ganahl gave a few specific examples of actions she would take as governor, but the speech was mostly conservative platitudes. She said she would appoint an entirely new state parole board and rescind every executive order from Polis.
“I will follow the Constitution of the United States,” she said to sustained applause.
“How about we protect free speech, like we’ve been fighting to do at CU, the most liberal place in Colorado?” she said about the University of Colorado, garnering a few claps. “And how about we protect our Second Amendment rights and the life of the unborn?” she finished, with those rhetorical questions receiving significantly more cheers.
Ganahl has raised approximately $658,000 since launching her campaign in September; $250,000 of that is self-funded.
She has the most money and most name recognition among the slate of Republican gubernatorial candidates, which also include former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez and real estate agent Danielle Neuschwanger.
Primaries will be held on June 28. The Republican nominee will face off with Polis in the general election on Nov. 8.
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